Various tourism business operators in the South and the East as well as the Thai Hotels Association are calling on the government to fully reopen the country to international tourists by lifting all remaining COVID-19 restrictions from next month.
In an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and other officials dated Wednesday, the groups said the government should declare COVID-19 an endemic and lift all restrictions, including the Thailand Pass and post-arrival coronavirus testing requirements for international tourists.
Several countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom, have already declared the spread of COVID-19 as an endemic and cancelled almost all of their coronavirus curbs, the letter said.
“Thailand needs to further relax COVID-19 restrictions for tourists now, or else it may lose the ability to compete with other nations,” the groups said in the letter, referring to key competitors in the global tourism market such as Vietnam and Japan.
In this region, the Philippines, for instance, on 10th February cancelled post-arrival COVID-19 tests previously imposed on international visitors, it said.
Moreover, April will be an important month for Thailand’s tourism industry as Western tourists usually like to travel to the kingdom during the Easter holidays, while Songkran normally attracts a huge number of foreign visitors, it said.
The letter calls on the government to cancel its policy to conduct repeated RT-PCR COVID-19 tests on foreign tourists during the first and fifth days of their stay in the country.
On 1st February, the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) began relaxing the country’s COVID-19 restrictions for visitors arriving under the Test & Go scheme by lifting the mandatory quarantine period and shifting to the tests.
However, to enter Thailand under this scheme, tourists must book a hotel room for their fifth-day testing ahead of their travel.
According to the tourism associations, the number of COVID-19 infections found during second RT-PCR tests was lower when compared with infections found among the local population.
Citing figures compiled in Phuket from 1st February to Sunday, these associations said the infection rate among post-arrival tests was 2.17% while the rate of infections found in second tests on the fifth day was 3.56%.
“Still, these infected tourists have apparently not caused any burden on the country’s healthcare system as their infection rate is very close to that of the common flu,” they said in the letter.
All foreign tourists who tested positive for COVID-19 either showed mild or no symptoms, according to the letter.
Quarantine for an infected tourist should also be shortened from 10 to only five days, while those identified as at high risk of contracting the disease should be exempt if cleared of infection in the first test, said the groups.